THE FINAL WHAT?

When I saw “final” as the word of the day, I got a chill. In the past two weeks, I have lost at least three friends with more on the way. Not to mention that my email is full of warnings of: “This is the final hour! Send $3 now!”

I fondly hope this isn’t the final hour for all of us, but it has recently been the final hour for more than a few friends and loved ones.  I don’t know how many more are on the special waiting line. I’m hoping that Death is like the guy in Terry Pratchett’s books. Pragmatic, friendly and most of the time, there to give you a hand to find your right place.

It is a strange feeling watching your group of friends grow smaller day by day. My mother told me a long time ago that “You know you are old when you start to lose your friends.”

I thought it was the creepiest thing she ever said. Later, I read a version of the same idea in various books. Mostly memoirs by “famous people.” I thought “There is nothing to prevent this final loss. No money, power, or fame can change it in any way.” It’s not that I thought money, power, or fame would stop the progression of life toward its ending, but I hadn’t given it deep thought.

To a degree, that hasn’t changed. I am pragmatic. I care, but I’m not sticky about it. I’ve come close enough to that line to realize it is never as far away as we might think. Final is. Like life is.  So I don’t brood about it, accept it when news arrives, feel the absence of another person I loved. I get notes from friends about their husbands. From the family of friends. A few really good friends. Others are sick and getting sicker. There won’t be an end to this. Someday, I suppose I’ll be the note in someone’s inbox. I hope it will be a generous and kindly note that skips over my failures and all those times I’ve been an asshole. Try to remember the laughter and humor. It’s the part I worked hardest at.

After all these years, I still don’t know how I feel about this ongoing march from birth to that final hour. When I was in my twenties and we — our group — lost someone, usually to a car accident or another unexpected thing, it shook us badly. We were too young. It wasn’t supposed to happen … was it?

Now it is the way the world rolls.

Final.

Final days of the earth? Final years of democracy? Final end to everything in which I believed? Or just the inevitable shearing off of living people whose time was finished?

If this is final, what does that mean? The final what?

CONTROL, REALITY, AND LIVING YOUR LIFE

You can’t control life. We think we are in control, especially when everything is moving according to plan.


It’s an illusion.

The first time your life-road takes a sharp turn and hits a big rock, it’s a crash. All of your firm belief that nothing can stop you doesn’t help — because there are things — many things — that can and will stop you. If you don’t die, of course.

I love it when people tell me nothing will stop them, that whatever they want, they can get it. All they have to do is want it enough. I don’t argue with people who talk like that. They believe it and who am I to ruin their dreams? I’ve personally hit a lot of rocks, ditches, unexpected  turns and had my “life vehicle” battered to a creaking hulk. I learned, painfully, slowly, when it’s time to give up control and go with the flow. To find a path in the life you are really living that works for you.

Life can change in a split second. As it did for Christopher Reeve. One minute, he was a big, handsome, strapping movie star. A dreadful split second later, he was someone completely different.

In other lives, it’s slower. For me, it was at the pace at which bones and joints calcify. I refused to pay any attention to the wreckage of my spine. It was mind over matter and I am strong. I would prevail. And I tried and for a while, it worked.

Turns out, mind over matter only takes you so far. Eventually, pain starts to take over. It’s not something that happens in an afternoon. More like a decade. Maybe two. I eventually found the best doctor who told me what I had heard before but hoped was not the real answer. He said: “Your back has got you through this far. It’ll take you the rest of the way. Pain control, gentle exercise. Recognize your limits. Don’t do anything stupid. No car crashes. No falling. No lifting.”

No horses, no hauling. Got that. And of course, this was before all the heart surgery, which further eliminated the likelihood of any of these dangerous activities. So. I’m not doing anything stupid. Okay, not anything very stupid. Maybe only a little bit stupid. Nothing that will break something more.

There’s no moral to this story. It’s just life. If you don’t die young, you will get old. Which means that parts of you are likely to hurt. Whether or not you are in a position to help fix the hurt with exercise or physical therapy depends on what’s wrong in the first place. The one thing you cannot plan is a controlled life where you are always in charge.

We all have some control, but ultimately, no one has full control. Ever.

When life throws you a curve, you have a choice. Spend your life fighting for something you can’t be or with a bit of grace, find your way to being who you have become. Now. In this time. In this place. It is not a tragedy unless you make it one.

Reality is not the worst plan in the world. Our lives are full of weirdness, lies, and illusion, but facing the truth can be uplifting. You don’t have to give up living. You do have to learn to live a life that makes sense. For you.

ACCEPTING WHATEVER IT MAY BE

ACCEPTING, ACCEPTANCE, AND MOVING ON

It’s one of the things you learn getting older. You really can’t fight all the battles because there are too many battles and too few of you. So you accept that the plow driver knocked down half a wall and dug up a big chunk of garden … which someone is going to have to fix because it’s like hideous mud and rock central on the driveway.

You look at the door, realize it’s begun to rot a bit under the sill. You shrug. It’ll get dealt with, eventually. Not by me, of course. I don’t do sills.

The garden is a mess. The trees are breeding caterpillars. The dogs need a haircut and, for that matter, so do I. It’ll get sorted out. Or not. The places I plan to go, but the drive is too long — or the directions too complicated. The places I  ought to go, but don’t want to, at least not enough to make such an effort.

When I was 30, I went. Regardless. For the adventure, if nothing else. At 70? Adventure is great if I don’t have to walk over rough ground to experience it. So I know in advance of plans that I might go, but maybe I really won’t. Even if not doing so involves guilt and regret.

There’s a lot of acceptance going around. It’s not all that bad. After all those years of doing everything I was supposed to do and 50% more because I believed I should go that extra “mile,” I would have expected the changeover from “must” to “I’ll get to it” to be … more intense maybe?

Turns out, many of the things I did were not half as important as they seemed at the time. Can’t even remember most of them. But my brain screamed: “YOU MUST DO THAT NOW!” Phumf.

Now, I don’t even think about the why of it all. If it’s a doctor, I will deal with it, though I may defer the visit a couple of times until I get to it. Taxes? Well, you have to do them, at least if you want your money back. Visiting friends or having them visit? No question, I want to do it … if it will just please stop snowing. Vacations if reservations are involved and dates for dogs to be attended get worked out. We go.

On the “it’s almost work” front, writing a piece that’s bouncing around in my head. Checking in on friends, internet and otherwise.

Wondering why Gibbs was staring at the wall in the kitchen and growling ferociously. What did he see that I probably should know about?

Thinking I’d like to buy a video game, but wondering if I’d have the time to play it because my hobby (Serendipity) has become increasingly intense as the years have marched on. Or, as I said to Garry just last night: “Yes, it is a bit like work, but it’s writing. If I weren’t writing for Serendipity, I’d be writing for no one. I am going to write. Might as well write so other people can read it.”

Everything else can wait. Possibly until the next life rolls around.

RHYTHM METHOD

lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown


The poem I’ve written below is based on the “Five Principles for Getting through the Trump Years,” given by Alice Walker in her speech at a reading in La Manzanilla, Mexico two nights ago on February 20, 2017. I was fortunate enough to be at that reading where she and four other excellent writers also talked about subjugation, prejudice, inequality, poverty and the importance of kindness, open-mindedness, acceptance and education in bringing our country to a better level of fairness to all.

I’ll talk about some of the other poets and storytellers who told their tales in a later post; but for today, and since it fit in with today’s prompt, here is my take on Ms. Walker’s wonderful talk.

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Rhythm Method

You’ve got to listen to the beat.
Shake your booty, pound your feet.
If you want to survive the day,
the rhythm method is the way.
It’s been said by smarter folks than I
that it’s the way that we’ll get by
in times we think we won’t survive—
the way we stay fully alive
in spite of voters who were hazy
and voted in a man who’s crazy.

Instead of listening to his bleat,
until the time of his defeat,
first and foremost, kindness will
help us to swallow this bitter pill.
A close connection with nature might
help us stay strong in the fight.
Respect for all those elders who
just might be another hue:

native tribes or Africans
brought unwillingly as hands
to shore up our economy
and build a country for you and me
while they paid the awful fee
in poverty and slavery.
It’s time to set our people free!

Gratitude for human life,
both theirs and ours, will allay strife.
In times like these, less than enhancing,
“Hard times demand furious dancing!”
One wiser and more in the groove
than I am, says that we must “Move!”
James Cleveland sang “This too shall pass,”
Turn on his music and move your ass.

Thousands of people dance along
this wonderful old gospel song
in her mind’s eye and I agree.
While we are waiting, you and me,
for enough others to see the light
and step in line to wage the fight,
we have to keep the joy in us
in spite of this unholy fuss
that seeks to keep us frightened and
prisoners in our native land.

Instead of knives and swords and guns,
defeat the tyrant with jokes and puns.
Comedians will save the day
and keep us laughing on the way.
But in the mean time, move your feet.
Feel the rhythm. Feel the beat.
If this nation has a chance,
perhaps we’ll find it in the dance.


The quotations above are all from Alice Walker’s talk. In prose form, here again are her five principles for getting through the Trump years (or hopefully, months.)

1. Kindness, which can keep us going through these unkind times.

2. A close connection with nature.

3. Respect for our oldest biological ancestors including native Americans (specifically those at Standing Rock), Africans  (who survived the fierce physical brutality of slavery) and Europeans such as John Brown and Susan B. Anthony.

4.  ‘Move!  Hard times demand furious dancing.’ Reverend James Cleveland sang, “This too shall pass.”  Get a recording of it and dance to it! She has an image of thousands of people dancing to this wonderful gospel song.

5. Maintain gratitude for human life.

She ended by relating the importance of meditation, which she described as a means “to rediscover the blue sky that is our mind,” and by stating that one way we can overcome the constant bad news with which our oppressors drug us is to learn the bad news first from comedians. This, perhaps, is one way for us to get through this dark period in our history.

The prompt today was rhythmic.


Please read the original post on Judy Dykstra’s brilliant site: Rhythm Method

PRINCESS LEIA AND THE WOMEN’S MARCH: A FITTING TRIBUTE TO CARRIE FISHER

A fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.

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A little less than a month ago, on December 27, 2016, actress Carrie Fisher died after suffering a heart attack on a plane. Her death was followed the next day by that of her mother, Debbie Reynolds. The world, especially that part of it which (like me) was brought up on Star Wars as a staple of our pop culture, deeply mourned the loss of the classy lady who not only played Princess Leia in the movies but epitomized her. This article is not an obituary for Carrie Fisher. If you want one of those, I highly recommend the touching piece by the Burning Blogger of Bedlam giving tribute to “the people’s princess.” I loved Princess Leia. You loved Princess Leia. We all admired her courage, determination and grit. Carrie Fisher, who went through a lot of hard knocks in her life, will be greatly missed.

Yesterday (January 21, 2017), the day after the inauguration as President of the United States of a fascistic know-nothing who detests women and just about everybody else, millions of people in the United States and around the world–including even Antarctica!–took to the streets to support women’s rights, feminism, empowerment, diversity and to express in no uncertain terms their opposition to the viewpoints of President Trump. I took part in one of these marches, in Eugene, Oregon. Like everywhere else, the crowds that turned out vastly exceeded what authorities expected. There were (reportedly) 750,000 in Los Angeles and over 1 million in Washington, D.C., dwarfing the tepid and pathetic “crowd” that turned out for Trump’s lackluster inauguration. In Eugene I’m told police expected 1,000 marchers. The number who showed up? Over 10,000.

I was struck, during yesterday’s march, by one recurrent image: the face of Princess Leia as an icon of resistance.

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Carrie Fisher, as she appeared in 2015. Her outspoken views are part of the reason why Princess Leia resonates as a symbol.

I saw Carrie Fisher’s face in a lot of places. Many people, men as well as women, were carrying signs with her picture (one of them is shown at the top of this article). I saw a woman with the symbol of the Rebellion from Star Wars tattooed on her arm, and I saw a man with a patch of the same symbol on the back of his denim jacket. In one of the most touching tweets I saw about the march, Fisher’s Star Wars co-star and friend Mark Hamill referenced Leia as a symbol of women’s empowerment, linking it to Fisher’s own strongly-professed beliefs during her lifetime. His tweet included an image of a woman, evidently from the Los Angeles march, dressed as Princess Leia.

When women’s rights are under attack in real-life America, can a science fiction princess help us defend them?


Complete original post at: Princess Leia and the Women’s March: a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.

GAME OVER

TRANSCRIPT | THE DAILY POST DISCOVER CHALLENGE


Reality is analog. All of it. These days, people seem a bit confused about what is real (analog) and what is unreal (virtual and/or digital). I’m here to help.

Have you ever gotten a digital haircut? How about digital surgery? While I did have surgery to implant a digital device to remind my heart to beat and my husband wears digital hearing aids, most of real life is deeply, substantively, painfully, gloriously analog.

realitychangedmylifeFor the past week, I have been having a recurring non-digital, significantly analog experience: I am giving myself a haircut. This involves a real pair of sharp, stainless steel hair shears and a lot of snipping of my real hair with those analog scissors. This is a process in which it is important to know if you analogically slip a snip, you cannot hit “undo” and replace a clump of hair. So you do it slowly, in stages. A clip or two at a time. No computers or other devices involved. Just … little analogic bits of hair falling gently and not virtually or digitally into your sink and down your neck.

If you are having trouble distinguishing the difference between analogical reality and virtual reality, here are some guidelines:

  • If it makes you bleed, it’s analog.
  • If it hurts, it’s analog.
  • If it goes away when you turn off the device, it’s digital — and probably virtual.
  • If you can fix it by reloading or hitting “undo”? Digital, virtual. Not real.
  • If it looks like something out of Mordor and has scales, fangs, weird horns and is speaking in a strange tongue? It’s probably virtual but it also might be drug-related. Please check to see if you have been smoking or drinking (or both) before making assumptions. However, if it bites you with its fangs and removes a piece of you? And this event is followed by bleeding and pain? Toss the goggles and run. That is reality. Biting you.

orc-from-mordor

Here’s the clincher: If you are doing something virtual while doing something analog, for example texting while driving? You may encounter the ultimate analog experience. Death. Game over.

FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT – IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE

Life is a road which urgently needs repaving. It’s so full of pot-holes, rocks, broken branches, quicksand and mud, it’s amazing anyway can navigate the whole distance. What makes repaving plans tricky is no two people travel the same road. Too many roads!

Okay, sure, sometimes paths cross … even run side-by-side for miles — years — at a time. But even when they cross or run parallel, they aren’t a single road.

It’s like a family with three kids. Say you’ve got an older brother and a younger sisters. Your brother becomes a business man and lives a pretty normal life while your sister discovers her own version of  chaos theory. She proceeds to live a life of crisis and yeah, chaos. Not theory, but the real deal. As for you, you’re not entirely sane, but compared to your sister, you’re solidly grounded. That’s worrisome because you know the weird stuff going around in your head.

Yet all three of you had the same parents and as far as anyone can see, more or less the same upbringing.

So, I guess that road is going to stay uneven. Life will continue to be unfair. It will leave many of us looking skyward, searching for answers and sometimes, for questions.

We have great parents, crappy lives. Horrible parents, amazing lives. That’s just life. Infinitely variable, lumpy, bumpy, and charmingly uneven.

UNEVEN | THE DAILY POST